Two days ago, the world’s richest nations ended their G7 summit with big promises on the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines.
They plan to donate more than one billion doses to developing countries like Barbados, up from the 130 million doses promised in February.
While several experts welcomed the news, it did not get the loud applause for what may appear to be at face value to be a generous gesture.
For many, the plan falls short on several scores.
Frankly, it is long overdue, apparently only coming after global pressure from leaders like our own Prime Minister Mia Mottley who has described her government’s efforts to secure vaccines akin to being in the wild, wild, wild West.
Secondly, experts warn the vaccines will not reach countries fast enough and still may not even be enough.
And thirdly, the G7 – including United States, Canada, UK and Australia – have long brokered deals with drug makers Pfizer and Moderna that according to international reports will see those countries having the capacity to vaccinate their populations four times over before many countries receive a single dose if at all.
It is hard to forget that over the last few months, these rich countries have been hoarding the vaccines while there has been little movement on a push for a temporary patent waiver that would allow other countries to produce the vaccines.
This has essentially led to worrying gaps and, according to Director General of the World Health Organisation Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, a situation where the globe needs vaccines much faster.
“This is a big help, but we need more, and we need them faster. Right now, the virus is moving faster than the global distribution of vaccines,” he said.
“More than 10 thousand people are dying every day… these communities need vaccines, and they need them now, not next year.”
According to epidemiologists, 70 per cent of the world’s population of 7.8 billion people must be vaccinated before the disease can be brought under control.
And at the current global rate of 6.7 million vaccine doses per day, it will take roughly 4.6 years to gain worldwide herd immunity.
This one-sided approach to necessary treatment is not new.
During the height of the HIV pandemic, developing countries struggled to access life-saving medications due to their high costs. We still haven’t learnt the lesson.
Experts have cautioned that this worrying situation could lead to variants of the virus developing and spreading, potentially rendering current vaccines ineffective.
In fact, we need to look no further than the United Kingdom where the rush is on to vaccinate the entire population with the Delta variant infecting thousands.
Yesterday, UK authorities said the variant was responsible for more than 90 per cent of COVID cases there and Prime Minister Boris Johnson delayed full re-opening until July 15.
Just today, The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention declared the Delta variant, also known as B.1.617.2, a “variant of concern.”
The ‘variant of concern’ designation is given to strains of the virus that scientists believe are more transmissible or can cause more severe disease.
While it is a known fact that the COVID-19 vaccine won’t stop anyone from getting the virus, it is proven to lessen the severity of the illness which has so far killed 3.8 million people.
Vaccination campaigns rolled out across the globe have allowed most of the rich countries to return to a sense of normalcy and it’s what we are aiming for especially with no sign that the coronavirus will be eliminated anytime soon.
There’s no getting away from the fact that unless the world is vaccinated, the disease remains a serious threat.
Hundreds of millions are still being sickened by the virus. Economies and lives are still in shambles.
If nothing else, we should have learnt that we all live on one small planet and our actions can either help or hurt each other.
No good has come from hoarding vaccines. If half of the world’s people are sick and dying. There is no hope for trade, commerce or travel. Until we’re all safe, none of us is safe.
It’s past time for the richest to up their game against a virus that doesn’t play.